Architect, designer and visual artist Joana Astolfi is the mind behind some of Lisbon’s coolest spaces, such as PARK or Cantinho do Avillez. She was also chosen by Hermès to design the windows for their Lisbon stores.
A collector of everything second-hand, Joana grew up in Cascais, but has traveled the world, having graduated from the University of Wales and worked everywhere from Italy to South America. Everywhere she goes, she searches for second-hand objects in flea markets, old shops and abandoned houses, and it’s her love for vintage that inspires her designs, trying to find a way to reinterpret and re-purpose an object that already has some use. “It’s not just about the aesthetic of an object, it’s also about its history”, Joana says.
With such a unique perspective on life and things, we of course wanted to find out her thoughts on Lisbon. Her interview, below:
– Secret location?
My secret tree house in the Alentejo, built by myself and my father. Still today, it’s my refuge. It’s where I go when I want to hide.
– Best view?
View of Lisbon from the other side of the river Tagus. View from the airplane as it passes over the bridge approaching Lisbon.
– A guilty pleasure?
Stealing fluffy pillows from luxurious hotels.
– A weird talent?
Looking at people when they don’t know I’m looking at them. Collecting photographs and diaries of people I never met.
– Where can we find you on a Saturday afternoon?
Having a massage.
– A perfect day with the family?
At the beach until sunset in the Summer or eating cheese fondue around the fireplace in Winter.
– How (and where?) do you find time to relax?
In the morning. I like to start my days slowly, I take time to play with my daughter, eat a heathy breakfast and take a relaxing shower. I book all my appointments after midday and work until dinner time, sometimes later.
– A trend for Lisbon’s future?
There have never been so many quality restaurants, cafes and shops in Lisbon and I believe this trend will continue to grow. Portuguese are travelling more and living abroad and bringing back their experiences and visual baggage. Several foreigners are also moving to Lisbon to set up their business and bringing a part of their culture to our city. Lisbon is growing and becoming increasingly cosmopolitan.
– Favorite drink in the city?
A mojito during sunset at PARK with an overview of the city. A late night drink at Procópio, Foxtrot or Pavilhão Chinês (three of Lisbon’s vintage 1950’s bars).
– What can you do here & nowhere else?
Feel like a tourist in my own city. The rhythm of this city, it’s climate, the beaches, the magic of the city, all of these factors allow me to fall in love over and over again with Lisboa.
– What inspires you for the Hermès windows?
Every year Hermès launches a theme to which all window designers must respond during the course of the year. Last year the theme was ‘Metamorphosis’. This year the theme is ‘La Flânerie’. The flâneur is one who strolls around aimlessly but enjoyably, observing life and his surroundings. Lisbon is a flâneurs paradise. It is the perfect city for one who likes to pay particular attention to details, for one who likes to capture and register moments. In our last window displays for Spring 2015 we celebrated this theme through the eyes of a bird. Birds are, by nature, flâneurs. They are curious creatures, always peeping into places and things, scanning the world around them, like myself.
– Do you have one piece you enjoyed making most?
Every piece has a unique story so it’s difficult to quantify which one I enjoyed making the most. But I certainly won’t forget the making of the ‘Cantinho do Avillez’ Restaurant art installation ‘Don’t Eat More Than You Can Lift’ where we created a graphic and chromatic puzzle with over 500 portuguese kitchen utensils, or the cirurgic set up of all of the Hermès Window Displays (every season we have a new challenge), or the making of some of my art pieces, such as ‘The Universe is Incredibly Big and We Are Incredibly Small’ where you can see through a magnifying lens a woman’s figure holding a butterfly in the air like a kite. The butterfly represents the universe, the uncontrollable force of nature that man is always trying to control. Another unforgettable piece is ‘Pixeled Maria’ where we hand-stitched coloured pixels on top of a painted portrait of a woman I never met. I found her portrait in a market in Paris and immediately knew it had potential for a future art piece.
– Do you wonder where your pieces are displayed once they’re sold?
I had the pleasure of personally meeting many of the buyers of my pieces. Some live in Portugal, some live abroad. One of the best sensations in the world is walking into a house or a public space and seeing one of your pieces on the wall. It’s like meeting up with an old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time. I have a very strong umbilical and emotional connection to all of my pieces and it’s very difficult to let go when I sell a piece, but I have to do it. An artist’s work must circulate.
– Is there one celebrity you’d like to think owns one of your pieces?
– Something you cannot resist?
– Someone to take out for dinner?
– Someone NOT to be stuck on an elevator with?
The lady who overuses her favourite cologne.